It only takes three little words to let customers know that a product is the highest possible quality: Made in Montana.
Companies in Big Sky Country understand the value that locally made products hold for Montanans. While the state’s farmers and ranchers produce a wide variety of crops and livestock, value-added companies are equally successful in using those commodities to make sought-after products.
Take Kracklin’ Kamut in Big Sandy, for example. The company started with an idea to make a product similar to corn nuts but with a larger wheat kernel – kamut. This wheat is an ancient grain grown by some 30 Montana farmers. After trial and error in finding a buyer and having enough kamut wheat, Kracklin’ Kamut formed about three years ago and started selling retail in July 2015.
“The qualities of the grain make this a very healthy snack,” Manager Thomas Dilworth says. “We began focusing on health food stores, but I saw a bigger opportunity with convenience stores because there aren’t a lot of healthy snack options.”
As far as the snack itself, Dilworth says it’s similar to corn nuts in that you still get that crunch, but it’s not as abrasive on the teeth. Plus, it is known to have incredible health and anti-inflammatory qualities.
“It’s an ancient grain, so it hasn’t been modified in any way,” Dilworth says. “People think it won’t taste good when you tell them it’s organic and healthy, and their initial reaction is always surprise. When you exceed someone’s expectations, you’ve got them.”
Local and High-Quality
Curt Gambill, owner of C&K Meats – Montana Western Flavors in Forsyth, knows a thing or two about exceeding expectations. Founded in 1998, the company offers choice quality beef, pork, smokehouse specialties, seafood, jerky snacks and more, sourcing meats locally as much as possible.
“Every year, it just blows my mind as to how much we’ve grown,” Gambill says. “We continue to learn and what we’ve been able to do with custom processing through equipment changes and working with other growers – it just blows my mind.”
Gambill adds that one of the many keys to their success is the Made in Montana program, which helps promote products that are “authentically” Montana.
“We’re native Montanans, and in our case, people are getting a truly homegrown Montana product,” Gambill says. “The Made in Montana name alone packs a punch. There’s something about it, and people think it’s another world.”
Kim Curren, owner of Shaggy Bear Farm in Bozeman, says she spends lots of time talking to consumers about the importance of buying local.
“I think it’s so important for people to know where their food comes from and share with families and kids,” she says. “It changes your whole viewpoint about food when you’re part of the growing process.”
Curren founded Shaggy Bear Farm in September 2015 after discovering Freight Farms, which are hydroponic farms housed inside a recycled shipping container. The units are specifically designed for leafy greens, and Curren grows lettuces, kale, chard and tatsoi, along with a variety of herbs. She also takes custom orders from local chefs, as well as selling to neighbors and people who stop by the farm.
Curren says she plans to have a leafy green CSA, or community supported agriculture program, under way in 2017.
“I think having year-round availability, plus consistency with price and quality of the product, keeps our food more community- based for the entire year instead of having to rely on going out of state,” Curren says.
It’s safe to say that for all three companies, Dilworth sums up the pride of offering Montana to the rest of the nation.
“It’s awesome to take a piece of our state to the rest of the country and the world,” he says. “We’re bringing flavor to the rest of the world without actually bringing them to Montana.”